Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Catholics, Physical Suffering and Doctrines of Demons

Posted by Christine Pack
"(Mother Teresa) was 'anything but a saint,' the Canadian study authors found.......In fact, she found beauty in watching people suffer, the authors say." (Washington Times article)
"Pope John Paul II used to beat himself with a belt and sleep on a bare floor to bring himself closer to Christ, a book published (in 2010) says." (CNN article
Mother Teresa
There is a commonly held view today among both Christians and the secular that the well known Roman Catholic nun Mother Teresa was good and loving, and that she devoted her life's energies to alleviating the suffering of others. This view has been summed up in the oft repeated response that Christians sometimes encounter from unbelievers when they are being pressed about goodness, morality, and one's standing before God. The response, from the lost person whose conscience has been pricked, goes something like this: "Hey, I'm no Mother Teresa but I'm no Hitler either." In that statement, one can see that Hitler has been cast in the role of a person universally regarded and known to embody evil, while Mother Teresa is the antithesis to that: the universal embodiment of goodness.

But is this the reality about Mother Teresa? Was she the essence of goodness and selfless giving of herself to those who were suffering?

 Christian View of Suffering 

First, let's discuss the biblical view of suffering as compared to the Catholic view of suffering. The biblical understanding of suffering is that God allows and uses suffering of every kind (physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual) to sanctify believers and conform them more and more to the image of Christ, and that in the midst of these trials, Christians can entrust themselves to God's wisdom, goodness, comfort, and eternal purposes.

There are many, many Bible passages that speak to this, but here are just a few:
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." (Rom 8:28-29) 
"Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Rom 5:3-5) 
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4) 
"But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Cor 12:9-10)
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: 'For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom 8:35-39) 
"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." (Phil 4:12-13) 
"Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings." (1 Peter 5:8-9) 
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble." (2 Cor 1:3-4) 
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." (Psalm 23:4) 
"Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So we can confidently say, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'" (Heb 13:5-6)
(And of course.... the entire book of Job.)
So that is the Christian view of suffering: God providentially allows suffering, and uses it to sanctify us, to conform us to the image of Christ, to teach us perseverance, to grow us in compassion, and to cause us to love Him more, and learn to entrust ourselves to Him more and more. These are wonderful promises and blessings that the believer can hold fast to in trials.

 Catholic View of Suffering 

So what is the Catholic view of physical suffering? Roman Catholics sometimes go beyond the biblical concept of entrusting themselves into God's sovereign care during physical suffering, to the point of (1) actually inflicting physical pain upon themselves (as documented in this CNN article about Pope John Paul II) or (2) through not alleviating the physical suffering of others in their care (as documented about Mother Teresa in this recent article). From the French study that raised concerns about how Mother Teresa cared for those in her missions:
"At the time of her death, Mother Teresa had opened 517 missions welcoming the poor and sick in more than 100 countries. The missions have been described as 'homes for the dying' by doctors visiting several of these establishments in Calcutta. Two-thirds of the people coming to these missions hoped to a find a doctor to treat them, while the other third lay dying without receiving appropriate care. The doctors observed a significant lack of hygiene, even unfit conditions, as well as a shortage of actual care, inadequate food, and no painkillers. The problem is not a lack of money--the Foundation created by Mother Teresa has raised hundreds of millions of dollars--but rather a particular conception of suffering and death: 'There is something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ's Passion. The world gains much from their suffering,' was her reply to criticism, cites the journalist Christopher Hitchens. Nevertheless, when Mother Teresa required palliative care, she received it in a modern American hospital."
Many Catholic monks (and some devout layperson Catholics) follow in Mother Teresa's view of intentional-physical-suffering-brings-holiness, and self flagellate (i.e., cause physical harm to themselves on purpose), fast for days on end, sleep in the freezing cold exposed to the elements, wear painful metal implements attached to their own bodies that inflict physical pain, etc. They do this under the delusion that purposefully bringing about physical pain will bring them more holiness, and bring them closer to God, in much the same way that they believe the elements of the Catholic Mass give them little injections of holiness every time they partake.

Is this not the essence of demonic deception? I can imagine Satan laughing in glee at this wicked deception he's gotten people to buy into that causes them to create physical torment in themselves or refuse to alleviate it in others. After all, we must remember that Satan hates all humans because we are made in the image of God, and is like a roaring lion, prowling the earth seeking whom he can devour (1 Peter 5:8).
"Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons." (1 Tim 4:1)
This is probably hard for most Christians to comprehend, but please, if you have Catholic friends or neighbors in your life that you care about, take some time to familiarize yourself with some of their beliefs, and what Paul called "doctrines of demons" (1 Tim 4:1). Catholics need the life giving truth of the gospel, the true gospel, and to understand that there is nothing they can add to Christ's finished work on the Cross.

photo credit: TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ via photopin cc

 Additional Resources 

French Study Claims Mother Teresa Wasn't So Saintly (Washington Times)

Book: Pope John Paul II Self-Flagellated to Get Closer to Jesus (CNN)

Rick Warren Endorses "Catholics Come Home" Campaign (Sola Sisters)

Catholicism Is Not Just Another Christian Denomination (Sola Sisters)

Why the Reformation Was Important (Sola Sisters)

After The Darkness, Light (Post Tenebras Lux) (Sola Sisters)

A Chart With Christian/Catholic Views Side-By-Side (Berean Beacon)

Testimony of a Former Roman Catholic Priest....From Darkness to Light
 (Berean Beacon)

Far From Rome Near To God (Amazon)

On The "Faith" of Mother Teresa: John Ortberg Strikes Out (Sola Sisters)

The Myth of Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa in Her Own Words (Sola Sisters)

CNN Reports That Mother Teresa Underwent Exorcism (CNN Archives)

BBC Reports About Exorcism Performed on Mother Teresa (BBC Archives)

 Refuting ECT (Evangelicals and Catholics Together) 

In this very important work, several Protestant pastors got together and presented a biblical response to the ECT document calling into question its purpose, which is that Christians and Catholics can go forth together in a united front to evangelize the lost. Obviously, given this, purpose, we can understand that the presupposition in the ECT document is that Christians and Catholics are both true believers, and both have a life-giving message to take to the lost. But the pastors who gave a rebuttal to ECT explain why the 2 camps cannot join forces together, and that, while Christians and Catholics share some common ground and terminology, they have fundamental, core and foundational differences in several significant areas, chiefly in their soteriological views (i.e., how it is that man is saved). And that's the hinge that swings the whole door of salvation.

The response to the ECT document was broken out into 6 parts entitled "Irreconcilable Differences." There are transcripts of the response, as well as 2 audio teaching sessions.

Parts 1-3 (approximately 1 hour in length)

Parts 4-6 (also approximately 1 hour in length)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Some Food For Thought For Christians On Earth Day 2013

Posted by Christine Pack and Marcia Montenegro

Today, in case it had somehow slipped by you, is Earth Day. I began receiving notifications that it would soon be Earth Day about two weeks ago. In my email inbox this morning, I received "Happy Earth Day" messages from a t-shirt company, Aveda, a homeschooling organization, Williams Sonoma, Lindt Chocolates, and many others. But how should Christians think about Earth Day? And what, if anything, should be our response?

Let me first note that, when I was a New Ager, we were ALL about Creation worship, sometimes called Gaia worship. And please note the capitalized "C" of "Creation worship;" we sincerely thought creation was imbued with divinity. I didn't know it at the time, of course, but I was a direct fulfillment of Romans 1:25, which states that "They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.....".  But I can honestly say that never in my wildest dreams, as a practicing New Ager, could I have imagined that one day the earth worship we had in our little fringe group would spread to the rest of the world and even into Christianity. And yet, I've seen Green Bibles, Green Bible Studies, Green Christian websites, etc.
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more." Rev 21:1
Now, it's not wrong, of course, to take care of the creation, but we must not give it more value than God has ascribed to it. God has told us in his Word that one day He will create a new heavens and a new earth. This means that this earth is of finite, limited use, and will one day be gone. And again, I'm not saying we should trash the earth: we are told in the Bible to be good stewards of it. But we must not revere it, and "Green" anything that I see inside Christianity literally makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up because there is a very fine line indeed between being a good steward of the earth in a biblical, balanced way, as opposed to letting your everyday decisions be framed by the environmental agenda. But to my dismay, I now recognize that this movement is so completely mainstreamed, that it often does frame our thinking in many of our decisions, from what car we will drive (electric vs. gas-powered), what paper products we will buy (recycled paper products vs. regular paper products) what items we will purchase (those produced by sustainable organizations vs. those not), etc., etc., with some kind of inherent moral virtue often implied in the purchasing of the "green" products.

Sadly, there are many Christians who are innocent to the agenda of the environmental movement. So as a former proponent of the Environmental Movement, I just want to sound a note of caution for Christians to perhaps be careful about what messages they might be unconsciously taking in, and to even be aware of the idea that there might be an agenda of some kind attached to a group that on the surface might look wholesome and beneficial. I also think Christians should be careful about which organizations they donate to, and to do their due diligence. Take for instance the organization Evangelical Environmental Network, which was founded by three pastors. That doesn't sound sinister, does it? But please look at this quote from their website, found by my friend and fellow researcher, Marcia Montenegro:
We urge individual Christians and churches to be centers of creation's care and renewal, both delighting in creation as God's gift, and enjoying it as God's provision, in ways which sustain and heal the damaged fabric of the creation which God has entrusted to us. 
We recall Jesus' words that our lives do not consist in the abundance of our possessions, and therefore we urge followers of Jesus to resist the allure of wastefulness and overconsumption by making personal lifestyle choices that express humility, forbearance, self restraint and frugality. 
We call on all Christians to work for godly, just, and sustainable economies which reflect God's sovereign economy and enable men, women and children to flourish along with all the diversity of creation. We recognize that poverty forces people to degrade creation in order to survive; therefore we support the development of just, free economies which empower the poor and create abundance without diminishing creation's bounty. (online source)
All right, that right there is where the rubber meets the road. It sounds so good on so many theories and ideas do, but try living that out. Many parts of this country have been hit hard by the recession we're in, and let's say a Christian man, wanting to make Godly choices and walk righteously before his Lord read the above call-to-action to only work at corporations that are sustainable, green, etc., and so he made the decision to do that because he felt it would be sinning otherwise. Should he starve to death, and let his family starve to death, if he couldn't find a suitably green company to work for?

As noted by Christian researcher Marcia Montenegro, this kind of thinking is "a type of legalism and judgment according to man's standards, and not God's. God tells the head of the family to provide for his family or he is acting worse than an unbeliever ('But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.' 1 Tim 5:8 - this goes for single mothers, too). That is God's mandate and that overrides working only for 'green' companies."

So as far as how Christians should think about and respond to, Earth Day, I think it's pretty straightforward: we should be guided by Scripture, not worldly wisdom about what products to buy or what company to work in. And as far as "evangelical environmentalists," how should we respond to them or think about them? For myself, I have certain criteria that I often hold in my mind when visiting the website of any kind of organization pertaining to be Christian. It goes something like this: What should I see when I visit a website that claims the name of Christ (such as the environmental site linked above)? Should I see Jesus Christ, the God-man, who came and fulfilled God's laws perfectly, and who died for sins, and was raised triumphantly from the grave to reign and rule over all the earth? Should I see Him exalted, magnified and glorified? Or should I see a rather worldly message, designed at piggybacking onto whatever trend is currently captivating people? Well, it's kind of a no-brainer, isn't it?
"For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified."1 Cor 2:2

 Additional Resources 

Tim Keller's Environmental Gospel

Christians and the Environment

Earth Day: The High Holy Day of Paganism

Paganism: The Natural Default of the Human Mind

The Bible is Our Firewall Against Paganism

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Rob Bell Endorses Same Sex Marriage

Posted by Christine Pack

Erin Benziger of Do Not Be Surprised has reported on a recent Q&A with author and NOOMA video producer Rob Bell, which Bell stated:
‎"I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it's a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs -- I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are."
Hmmmm, perhaps this statement by Bell will prompt a few churches to go through their libraries and do a little spring cleaning, and maybe toss out all those NOOMA videos and Rob Bell books? Just a thought.......

Read Erin Benziger's entire article here. 

 Additional Resources 

An Interview About Rob Bell's Book "Love Wins"

Rob Bell on Hell

What Rob Bell's Theology of Hell Looks Like In The Real World

Love Wins? A Critique of Rob Bell's New Book

Rob Bell Answers His Critics....But Don't Be Fooled